My friend swears she will never convert to e-books. It’s not that she’s anti-technology or she prefers the feel or smell of books. It’s because of the lack of violence.
“The main problem with reading books on a Kindle or ebook reader,” my friend explains, “is that you can’t throw the Kindle at the wall in disgust.”
The demise of the “dead-tree” book has been predicted and retracted and redefined and re-predicted and retracted until we are all, quite frankly, a bit sick of it and wish they would shut up until they have actually decided. They said radio would do it in the 1930’s, they said TV would kill the publishing industry in 1960’s and they’re still hollering on about today. I’m not here to argue the technology and the sociology of how we will read in the years to come (my fellow Boomerang blogger, Joel, will better serve you on that one at his blog). I am here to tell you one simple thing.
Until they invent a reader that you can throw at walls, spill coffee on and whirl about in your handbag bashing it off things with no worries as to its safety, the dead-tree industry will be getting most of my cash.
This is not sentiment, this is necessity. I am what my teachers called “spirited”, my father calls “a bit rough on things” and my mother refers to as “a bloody menace”. I am informed that liquids and ebook readers are not a match made in heaven and this could be an issue.
When presented with a book, some part of my brain returns to my those wonderful first books of my childhood and expects them to have waterproof and chewable covers so when the sippy-cup of juice (or cup of mocha) is inevitable bumped, the liquid will slide neatly off the covers, averting a tantrum at ruined and sticky pages.
And, worse than that, what will I do when I want to throw a tantrum? Hurling a book at the wall in a fit of pique could suddenly become a very costly habit. And it’s cost me enough already. The first book I ever hurled at the wall was Dicken’s Hard Times, which then promptly bounced off into a filthy bin. My classmate were hugely impressed at the gesture, thinking I meant it. I was in fact aghast that I was going to have buy a second copy of that lumbering monstrosity of a book.
(I eventually did get to like Dickens but my throw still stands. Hard Times was a terrible book to make fourteen-year-olds read. Took valuable time away from my Stephen King’s.)
I’ve developed quite a throw; hard enough to be satisfying, but soft enough not to crack plaster after the time I had to explain to the landlord that Melvyn Bragg’s Credo was a terrible read but excellent as a ballistic and that, yes, I would pay for those damages.
I’m not suggesting that you always bin rejected books with extreme prejudice but deleting the file doesn’t have the same cleansing effect on your psyche. Try it sometime. Erase an ebook from your PC. You can hammer that “delete” as hard as you want but it’s still anti-climatic. No one cares. But chuck it in a bin or set it on fire and you’ll have everyone asking why. Especially if you decide to do this with some of the major religious texts, although I’d recommend perhaps just going with a more amusing method of disposing of these – send bibles to the Scientologists and books on Scientology to your local representative perhaps?
Don’t get be wrong, I can see massive advantages in ebooks. You can take 1,000 books on holiday for the same space as you normally used on a magazine. School kids will no longer be forced to warp their backs with massive textbooks. (There was a ten year old on my train I used to refuse a seat off daily, because her bag was bigger that her – and indeed my – torso.) This is a good thing, although it will mean that they will no longer be able to enliven the duller texts by writing in them and drawing mustaches and naughty bits all over the pictures.
They’re smaller. They’re lighter. They’re better. I get it. But I just enjoying hurling things at the wall too much. Today Credo, tomorrow William and Kate – The Love Story. Will you join me? And what would you throw?